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Australian / New Zealand Distributor---------

Machinery Vibration Specialists Aust P/L

Applications & Techniques in Maintenance

121 St. Johns Avenue GORDON NSW 2072

Ph: +61-2-9880-2422 Fx: +61-2-9880-2466

Web: www.

Condition Monitoring

The Low RPM Challenge

Using traditional vibration measurement techniques to monitor bearings rotating below

100RPM is very difficult. The useful signals emitted from potential spalls or cracks in the
bearing raceways are very low in energy content. In a normal industrial environment, ambient
noise will sometimes almost completely drown out the weaker, bearing-related signals.

T i m S u n ds t r m
Manager R&D
SPM Instrument Ab

he patented SPM HD method redefines the practice of condition monitoring on low RPM applications. The
method is designed to provide instant condition information of rolling element bearings in green, yellow or red in a wide RPM
range. The real challenge lies in low-speed
applications, but the sensitivity of the method captures the interesting but weak, bearing-related signals while suppressing the signals of ambient noise.
During four years of field testing and real-life industrial use worldwide, the method has proven itself in numerous examples
of successful bearing fault identification at
very low RPMs, in many cases well below
10 RPM.

The Method
The use of high performance low-noise electronic components and extensive digital signal processing enables the method to detect
extremely small shock pulses (see fact-box).
Even well lubricated bearings in mint condition emit very small shocks that can be
captured and measured. An incipient spall,
so small that it is barely visible, still creates distinct shocks which are reliably detected. A traditional vibration measurement
approach on the other hand will not detect
these microscopic spalls because the energy


is not high enough to trigger the transducer,

at least not at low rotational speeds.
The method samples the transducer signal
and produces four different results:
HDm represents the highest
shock pulse found during the
measurement time, expressed
in decibels. Normally the value
for indication of the bearings
mechanical condition.
HDc is the threshold level, where
200 shocks per second are detected.
HDc is expressed in decibels, and is
normally the value for indication of
lubrication condition.
Time Signal HD is the sampled
shock pulse time wave form.

Spectrum HD is the Fast Fourier

Transform of the Time Signal HD
The reason for measuring the values on a
decibel scale is the inherent high dynamics of
the shock pulse signal. To take full advantage
of the dynamics, the hardware implementation of the method uses a 24 bit A/D converter and a resulting dynamic range of more
than 110 dB with no gain adjustment. The
sampling rate is 102.400 samples per second
and using HD Order Tracking, the signal is
digitally decimated to fit the analyzing frequency range. The samples are adjusted to
the current RPM using the patented order
tracking algorithm, then a second algorithm
enhances repetitive shocks while suppressing

ings lifetime. Over time, the repetitive stress

can cause the microscopic cracks to form a
network of larger cracks, eventually leading
to a spall (Figure 1 ). Based on practical results described later on it can be concluded
that it is relatively common for a metal part
to be partially loose for some time before it
detaches entirely. Until completely broken
away, the semi-loose part will be constantly
hit by the rolling elements, generating shock
pulses. When a metal part comes off completely, it leaves sharp, protruding edges in
the bearing raceways. While these edges are
slowly worn down, they constitute yet another fault mechanism.

Figure 1. A typical bearing spall development pattern.

Detection of Early-Stage Spalling

Figure 2. Typical shape of HDm values at 56 RPM in a trend graph spanning over

random ones. The resulting Time signal HD

is unusually distinct, mostly due to these and
a number of other algorithms.
In summary, shock pulse measurement
with SPM HD is a technology specialized
in detecting elastic waves/shock pulses emitted from spalls and cracks in bearings. The
method is extremely sensitive, making it optimal for low RPM applications.

The Typical Development

of Bearing Spalls
When a rolling element passes a given point
of a bearing surface, the pressure on that
point can be extremely high. As each rolling element passes, the high pressure pushes
the lubrication media into the microscopic
cracks normally found in the raceway surfaces. This is repeated throughout the bear-

Shock pulses Basic Principles

Shock pulses are elastic
waves in rigid materials (typically steel) with very short
rise and fall times. They propagate in the bulk material with
the speed of sound (typically 5000m/s). Shock pulses originate from the point of contact between two objects that
collide, e.g. a roller hitting the
sharp edge of a spall in the
raceway of a rotating bearing.
The short duration of the
elastic wave results in a signal
containing broad spectra of energy, generally well above 50

The shock pulse transducer

is specifically designed to pick
up shock pulses, responding in
a very distinct and precise way
when exposed to these pulses.
Due to its sensitivity, even microscopic collisions are detected. The transducer is tuned to
have its peak sensitivity at 32
KHz, resulting in suppression of
lower and higher frequencies.
The broad frequency content
in the shock pulse signal triggers the 32 KHz oscillation in
the transducer.
A shock pulse t ransducer
therefore is not sensitive to

As described above, a spall results in collisions between the rolling elements and either a semi loose part of the bearing or the
sharp edges induced by a fresh spall. Even
an extremely small spall still in its very early
stages will emit shocks, although fairly weak
in strength. These shocks will propagate in
the bearing and eventually reach the outer
parts of the bearing housing, where a shock
pulse transducer will detect the shocks and
indicate increased shock pulse levels. While
the sharp edges of the spall are being worn
down or when the semi-loose part comes off
completely, there will be a decrease in the
shock pulse levels, because the rolling elements will pass the spall, carried over it by

lower frequencies t ypically

originating from unbalance and
misalignment. It is designed
to capture shocks only. Shock

pulses can travel for long distances in homogenous material

but can be somewhat sensitive
to material interfaces.

Even well lubricated bearings in mint condition emit very small

shocks that can be captured and measured.


other surfaces around the spall

creating no collisions. Judging
from field experience, an initial
spall results in high shock values which will remain high for
some time until they either decrease slowly or drop abruptly.
The edge wear process takes
longer, hence resulting in slowly decreasing values, while the
semi-loose part process results
in the abruptly decreasing values.
A shock pulse trend showing
the typical increasing/decreasing
pattern followed by a longer period with low values can be a
warning sign of imminent bearing failure. The next spall can
be sinister, leading to rapidly increasing shock pulse values. The
important conclusion is that a
typical spalling process results
in periods of increasing shock
pulse values followed by periods of decreasing values. The
periods of elevated shock values are indicative of an active
spall (i.e. a spalling process giving rise to shock pulses). There
are examples of low RPM applications where an active period was followed by low shock
pulse values for over a year before the next spall occurred.
Figure 2 shows a typical
shape of HDm values in a trend
graph spanning over 1.5 years.
In this 56 RPM application, the
high peak values represent new
active spalls. The bearing was replaced after the high peak seen
in the right part of the graph.
The spalls were initially located
at the outer race. The very high
values represent inner race spalls
and finally a crack.

Colored Spectrum
Overview Basic Principles
The Colored Spectrum Overview
resembles the waterfall diagram,
but is viewed from above and
can contain many more spectrums. Far more efficient than
the waterfall diagram, it presents a three-dimensional view
of up to several thousand spec50


Figure 3. This Color Spectrum Overview contains several thousand spectrums spanning over 21
months. The red color indicates fresh spalling, clearly visible in the increasing and decreasing signal
pattern typical for this application.

trums with color-coded amplitudes in one picture. The purpose of the Colored Spectrum
Overview is to simplify the process of identifying in spectrums
the patterns and trends that indicate damages.
Imagine a large number of
spectrums arranged in a waterfall plot, viewing the spectrums directly from above. Assign a color dot to each individual spectrum line, with dark
blue representing low amplitudes and red representing high
amplitudes. Using for example 1600 lines and 2 000 spectrums results in a color picture
with 1600 X 2000 pixels = 3.2
million pixels where each single
pixel is color coded, representing the amplitude of a particular line (bin).
The y-axis represents frequency in orders (or in Hz)
while the x-axis represents the
date and time of the measurement, with the oldest measurement to the left. A frequency
peak occuring in several spectrums will show up as horizontal lines in the color picture (FIGURE 3 ).
In the above example, the xaxis represents the date of the individual measurements, while the
y-axis unit represents 0 to 100
orders. A horizontal line indicates a peak in the spectrum that

Figure 4. Severely damaged outer race of the twin wire press

bearing. The damage process was monitored for more than a year,
enabling the replacement to be planned at the best possible time.

can be seen in spectrums from

several dates; it is consistent.

The SPM HD method is excellent for condition monitoring
of low RPM applications. Using SPM HD, a spalling process
can be closely monitored over
a period of many months. The
typical signal patterns in these
cases are either:
slowly increasing shock
pulse values followed by
a slow decrease; typical
for metal parts from the
raceways that are partly
broken loose

slowly increasing shock

pulse values followed by
a rapid drop, typically
where damages are
caused by sharp edges
of a spall when it is
completely broken away.
The SPM HD method not only shows the existence of a potential damage, but the unique
sensitivity of the method makes
it possible to monitor the damage process in great detail, even
down to individual spalls. As the
damage progresses, the severity can be followed and replacement planned at the best suitable time.